If you were to ask me what pains me the most, my answer would be: saying goodbye.
I learned from a young age how to say goodbye to loved ones even when it was difficult. We’d visit our relatives from New Jersey twice a year and whenever it was time to go back home, there’d be tears, hugs and kisses from everyone involved. I hated leaving. I hated knowing that I was going to miss out on my grandmother’s funny stories and delicious food for the next six months, that I wouldn’t get to hang out with my cousins on Sunday afternoons.
Those goodbyes were good for me, though. They prepared me for a lifetime of having to part with friends and loved ones. I’ve traveled a lot, made a lot of connections during my travels, and the inevitable end would always come, when I’d have to leave the people who were my closest friends during that particular time and in that particular place. It’s strange how those people were once the center of my life, and now they are only a distant memory, separated by geography, lifestyle and the word “goodbye.”
Even though I’m practiced at farewells, nothing can prepare me for saying goodbye to my sister whenever she goes back to Texas. She visits often, but still it’s not often enough, and when the end of each visit draws near, a pain develops in my stomach as I think of all the time we could have had together if only she’d stay.
And last week, I had to say goodbye to my father, who moved back to New Jersey. Having lived near my dad my whole life, it felt strange having to switch my farewell greeting from “See you next week” to “See you in a few months.” So much can happen during the time that my father and I are separated. We’re going to miss out on much of each other’s lives. But that separation is necessary, if we are to live in the best possible place for us at this time. That’s what makes goodbyes so bittersweet. You hate to go or see someone go, but we all have a home we must return to. And it can only be hoped that that home is where we are supposed to be.
Daughter, there is nothing I can say to prepare you for the pain of saying goodbye. It will be difficult no matter how many times you may have to say it. But I can encourage you to leave goodbye at goodbye and walk away without regret and with your head held high, knowing you’re in the best place for you at that moment.
Just don’t ever say goodbye to me. I don’t think I could bear it.